Sussex's literary landmarks

PUBLISHED: 01:16 22 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:15 20 February 2013

Sussex's literary landmarks

Sussex's literary landmarks

Many Sussex authors have strong links to National Trust houses and gardens. Bring English lessons to life with a local literary pilgrimage, courtesy of the National Trust. Words: Emma Ward

Rudyard Kiplings Sussex retreat
Thats She! The only She! Make an honest woman of her quick! No, Kipling wasnt talking of his American wife Carrie, but of Batemans: the seventeenth-century house at Burwash, nestled in the Sussex Weald, that he bought in 1902.
One of the countrys best known authors by this time, Kipling continued to write while living at Batemans, composing his famous childrens story, Puck of Pooks Hill in the study there. While his wealth was significant, his physical condition was less robust, following the loss of his daughter Josephine in 1899, for whom he had written the Just So stories. Batemans became his sanctuary, and Kipling lavished much attention on it, using his 1907 Nobel Prize Literature winnings to pay for the garden. Today, visitors can stroll round the self-same garden and look inside the house; Kiplings study being a particular highlight. And this year the house has really been brought to life with recordings of Kiplings verse set to music playing on an authentic phonograph and the recreation of the childrens nursery with toys for visitors to play with.

Lamb House
Home to several Sussex literary greats
This brick fronted house in the heart of Rye was home to several Sussex authors, namely Henry James, E.F. Benson and Rumer Goden. James lived at the house in the early twentieth century, when he wrote numerous novels and short stories, including The Turn of the Screw, The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors. An American by birth, James spent the last 53 years of his life in England, and loved Lamb House, reportedly saying: I have been to the South, the far end of Florida but I prefer the far end of Sussex! In the heart of the orange groves I yearned for the shade of the old Lamb House mulberry tree. He entertained other authors there, including H.G. Wells whose mother was housekeeper at National Trust house, Uppark in South Harting.
E.F. Benson, famous for his Rye-based books about social rivals Emmeline Lucia and Elizabeth Mapp, visited Henry James at Lamb House and subsequently leased the property a few years after James death in 1916. Later in the 20th century, Lamb House welcomed another author: the novelist, Rumer Godden. The house is administered by a tenant on behalf of the National Trust and open to the public between March and October on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons.

Monks House
Virginia Woolf was unafraid of controversy, writing prolifically and associating herself with the sexually liberated Bloomsbury Group. She enjoyed a lesbian affair with fellow novelist, Vita Sackville West, whose glorious garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Cranbrook, Kent is looked after by the National Trust. Amongst Woolfs works, famous titles include To the Lighthouse and Orlando, which was reportedly influenced by Vita Sackville-Wests reminiscences of her childhood home at National Trust-owned Knole, also in Kent.
Again, during her tenure at Monks House in Rodmell, near Lewes, Woolf entertained many of her literary contemporaries, including E.M. Forster, Maynard Keynes and T.S. Eliot. Her mental health remained unstable throughout her life and she eventually drowned herself in the river Ouse in 1941.
Her cremated remains lie under an elm tree just outside Monks House and her husband erected a plaque in her memory in the garden. Monks House is administered by a tenant on behalf of the National Trust and open to the public between April and October on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons but there are plans to open for five days a week in future.

British playwright, Henry Fielding instructed us to read in order to live. But when not curling up with a good book, why not venture out this month to one or more of the following educational events at the National Trust in Sussex?

A little learning

30 April 2 May from 11am. Bodiam Castle: The Living Castle. A Bank Holiday snapshot of castle life. Who will you meet?

2 May from 12noon. Standen. Try your hand at maypole dancing.

4, 11, 18 & 25 May from 12.30pm. Uppark House and Garden. Print Room open. Rare chance to see inside this fascinating room.

6 May 10am. Nymans. Private tour of Messel family home before it opens to the public. 5. Booking essential on 01444 405250

6 & 7 May 11am. Petworth House and Park. Sew a rose corsage (6 May) or lavender patchwork heart (7 May). 35. Booking essential on 01798 342207 (max 15 participants)

14 May from 12noon. Petworth House and Park. Mini Masterpieces. Childrens drop-in art workshops. 2 per child, no booking necessary

21 May 10am. Petworth House and Park. Digital photography one-day workshop. 70. Booking essential on 01323 873400.

More information about events taking place in Sussex and beyond is available at

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